Nearly every time someone gets a fever the words, “Can you get the tylenol or aspirin for me” are heard. Fever is typically thought of as a sickness in and of itself and as somewhat menacing if not downright dangerous!
Let’s dispel those myths and urban legends right now! Fever in and of itself is a good thing! And, yes, I’m being serious! We’re speaking about the very most common type of fever and that’s the one associated with an infectious process….either a bacterial or viral infection. So why in the world would I state that a fever is actually helpful? Let’s look at four things.
First, fevers actually help our bodies to create more white blood cells in efforts to fight the infection itself. Also, that very same rise in body temperature will increase the movement of our white cells in order to beat back the infectious agent faster. Therefore, we get both increased numbers of white/immune blood cells and they work faster…because of the fever.
Second, the elevated body temperature, which means our core body temperature itself, is higher and is creating an environment which is simply inhospitable to bacteria and viruses! This then makes it more difficult for the invaders to multiply and spread! This same elevated core temperature causes our iron stores to shift to the liver and out of our blood streams. This decrease in circulating iron with elevated temperature actually decreases the ability of those invaders to proliferate yet again. Wow!
Third, in the presence of a fever, the white cells of the immune are better imprinted with the nature and character of the bacterium or virus. What does that do for us? Well, the immune system is then much more readily able to “recall” the invader in the future and defend our bodies against it….usually before it even causes symptoms! There is even research supporting the notion that recurrent fevers during our lifetimes makes our immune system responses more robust and even affords greater protection against many forms of cancer.
The notion that fevers cause brain damage needs to be addressed. The research and studies are very clear….such damage to our brains doesn’t happen until a temperature of 107.6 is reached! That level of temperature simply will never be seen with an infectious flu, cold, upper-respiratory infection or UTI! So please….relax! And what about those seizures you hear about? Well they can happen…but most typically only when a fever rises in very rapid fashion. Occasionally, a febrile seizure will present when someone reaches 103.5 to 104 degrees but this, it is currently estimated, only transpires in less than 4% of the population and only at those temps or above! So the likelihood you’ll ever see such a fever is very small indeed. Should one occur, they are not fun to watch but they are very short lived and do not cause brain injury!!
So in summing up about fevers….it’s pretty apparent that the good of the fever well out-weighs the negative on every level. So before reaching for something to bring a fever down and impede your body’s efforts to get you better faster and for the long term….give that fever a second thought….you’ll be glad you did!